|What I Learned About Preservation From Visits to 30 Libraries and How It Applies To You||
Janice K. Shull
Law Library of Louisiana
Between facing questions about licensing electronic resources and cataloging the internet, have you wondered recently what could be done about those volumes full of acidic paper that are crumbling in your stacks? Preservation is all about the physical state of our collections. Exercising care for our current collections and planning for their future preservation is the only way to extend the life of the physical materials in our libraries. This program reminded us of our responsibility for preservation and offered many simple solutions to that end.
Pat Turpening, Head of Preservation and Archives at the University of Cincinnati Law Library, opened the program with two startling statistics: libraries currently spend approximately $1.2 billion on legal information and 85% of today's acquisitions budget is spent on hard cover books. This investment deserves our utmost attention to the storage and maintenance of our physical resources.
Ms. Turpening took sabbatical leave in 2000-2001 to visit 30 law libraries in Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, and Michigan. The purpose of her visits was to survey the current state of preservation in those libraries, to conduct preservation workshops, and to recommend actions that could be taken. She selected a good cross-section of academic, private and court libraries, and found positives (e.g. food and drink policies displayed prominently, HVAC controls in place) and negatives (e.g mold damage, uncovered windows) in every library. Very few formal in-house preservation programs exist in the surveyed libraries.
Among Ms. Turpening's findings and recommendations, she emphasized that many preservation problems can be prevented by planning. The greatest need is for awareness and teaching of staff and users about good care of books. Most librarians are aware of the need for preservation but avoid incorporating preservation activities into collection management because "they are too expensive" or "there isn't enough staff" or "we don't have any training". Support from the director of the library is essential for success in budgeting and planning. One person on the staff should have ultimate responsibility for the library's preservation program.
AALL should bear some responsibility for educating its members about preservation. A basic course on preservation and book repair is highly desirable. Among the surveyed libraries, Ms. Turpening found a lot of interest but not a lot of action to preserve materials, which will eventually result in no useable books left on our library shelves.
Mary Rider, Head of Technical Services at Moritz Law Library of the Ohio State University, spoke from the perspective of one of the surveyed libraries. OSU was able to follow up on Ms. Turpening's visit with some immediate fixes in the shelving of oversize books, pamphlet binding options, and their backlog of volumes in poor condition. They have also implemented training in simple book repairs for staff and teaching shelving-friendly practices to student workers. At Ms. Turpening's suggestion, Ms. Rider has sought out local experts for identifying what can be repaired in-house and for training in minor repairs. What OSU learned from Pat's visit should be instructive to all libraries:
Although this program was scheduled in the conference's final time slot, interest was high and the speakers used slides effectively to capture attention. Ms. Turpening provided photos of the types of damage being inflicted on books through poor shelving and environmental practices. Ms. Rider gave many specific examples of simple solutions that have been achieved at OSU.
The handout (published in the Educational Program Handout Materials) lists extensive resources to learn more about preservation. Additionally, Pat Turpening wrote an article on "Essential Elements for Starting a Library Preservation Program" (AALL Spectrum, April 2002, pp. 10-11) and her survey report, "Survey of Preservation Efforts in Law Libraries," appears in Law Library Journal (vol. 94, no. 3, Summer 2002, pp. 363-393). With heightened awareness and knowledge gained from reading and educational programs, law librarians should aggressively tackle their preservation responsibilities.